Motels and motel chains

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People who are new to vacationing in North America may be unfamiliar with motels. The word ‘motel’ is a portmanteau of the words ‘motor’ and ‘hotel’ – meaning a roadside hotel. If you do not have a car you will have to stay in hotels in central city areas, which are far more expensive (double the price or more). If you have rented a car, however, I recommend living outside of the busy central areas, just a few miles outside of the city centre. There, prices drop significantly while service remains just as good.
Most motels are long buildings (horizontally) two or three storeys tall, which allow guests to drive their car almost all the way to their room. Usually there will be a central building which houses the reception area, a restaurant and other facilities. Every hotel has an ice machine, vending machines and, more often than not, coin laundry (with both washing machines and driers available). Some hotels also have a workout room and a Jacuzzi.



Motel rooms tend to be quite similar: they are spacious enough and contain two queen size beds or one king size bed (families are advised to specifically request two queen size beds). The room also has a television, a desk, chairs, a dresser, and an ensuite bathroom with a bathtub (or in rare cases, just a shower). Some hotels also have a fridge, a coffee maker or a microwave.
It is easy to recognise motels right off the highway, as they tend to have tall, lit-up signs which can be seen from a distance. Sometimes you may encounter the term ‘Motor lodge’ – it is just another term for ‘motel’. Breakfast is usually not included in your lodging fee in motels. However, in recent years motels have begun to offer free continental breakfast. Be sure to ask if breakfast is included if it is not mentioned when you check in. An important thing to keep in mind is that some information might not be offered to you if you don’t ask. So don’t be shy, and inquire: Is there a weekly lodging fare that is cheaper than the daily fare? Are there any discounts available? Are there rooms with a fridge?
For a travelling family, motels are the most convenient kind of lodging. They are relatively cheap, and parking is close to your room so there is no need to carry your bags a long way or use the services of a bellboy (motels don’t have bellboys). In most motels children get to stay for free in the same room as their parents, although the age at which someone is no longer considered a ‘child’ varies from motel to motel. In some, 12 and under is considered ‘child’ while in others it’s 18 and under.  You can quickly and cheaply do your laundry and you can relax in the motel’s pool. Restaurants right next to motels are usually nice and inexpensive family diners. Often, several motels are located very close to each other and to a variety of fast food restaurants such as McDonalds, Burger King and Pizza Hut.
There are many motel chains all over the US and Canada. The biggest and best ones are listed below this paragraph with links to their websites. Online you can find information about any and all motel locations for every chain and what facilities they include. If you enter the dates in which you intend to stay in a particular motel on its website, you will find out if there are available rooms on those dates and be notified of the precise cost (before tax). You can book on the phone or, even more easily, online. You will need to give the motel your credit card number in order to reserve the room for late check-in (after 4PM). Travel agents can also take care of booking for you but sometimes for a higher price. Be sure to compare prices as the differences may be significant. If you are making the booking yourself remember to enquire about discounts, deals and promotions.


This is a list of the biggest and best motel chains in the US. Most of them also have branches in Canada.


 Hotel Choice
Includes several different motel chains:

Mainstay Suites bannerHotel bannerComfort bannerEcono Lodge banner


Best Western 
One of the top motel chains in the US:

Best Western Logo


Holiday Inn Express
Belongs to the Holiday Inn hotel chain
Holiday Inn Express banner


Days Inn
A big chain of comfortable, decently-priced motels

Days Inn 120x90 Banner


Howard Johnson®:
 Kids stay free, includes complimentary breakfast and free high-speed internet:
Howard Johnson banner


Super 8 Hotels
Super 8 Hotels banner


Motel 6
The cheapest chain; rooms tend to be smaller and have showers instead of bathtubs
Motel 6  banner


RED ROOF INNS - a smaller chain


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